Hidden Texts, Buried Meanings: Allegories, Symbols, and Metaphors - ENG 5283 - Spring 2008


Frank Kermode, The Genesis
of Secrecy

Harvard UP, 1979
ISBN: 06743445355

King James Version of the Bible

Revised Standard Version of the Bible

Plato,Euthyphro, Apology, Crito, Phaedo, Phaedrus
Harvard UP Loeb edition, 1914
ISBN: 0674990404

Augustine, On Christian Doctrine
Prentice Hall, 1958
ISBN: 0024021504

Franz Kafka, The Metamorphosis
W.W. Norton (Norton Critical Edition), 1996
ISBN: 0393967972

 Patricia Highsmith, Eleven
Atlantic Monthly Press, 1994
ISBN: 978087113327

Louis Althusser, On Ideology
Verso, 2008
ISBN: 9781844672028

Paul Boghossian, Fear of Knowledge: Against Relativism and Constructivism
Oxford UP, 2007
ISBN: 0199230412


Bruce Krajewski
CFO 906

Rather than a tour through the mall of literary theory, this course will take a particular path in the history of hermeneutics. We will look at part of the the history of esotericism from Plato to Patricia Highsmith.  This will require digging, and a level of attention that might seem taxing at times. We will ask some basic questions, such as Kermode does in his book -- "Why are some narratives obscure?"  How are things hidden in writing? Is this always a secondary effect, or are the psychoanalysts correct that we also (1) hide things, like the truth, from ourselves, and/or (2) refuse to see? We will also think about the ways in which ideology impacts our capacities for clear vision. That is, we apparently have the capacity to live a grand illusion, and not necessarily as a Second Life.

"Allegory is not a playful illustrative technique, but a form of expression, just as speech is expression, and, indeed, just as writing is." Walter Benjamin makes that declaration in The Origin of German Tragic Drama (162 in the standard translation). As Renaissance authors used to say, confirming Benjamin's point above, allegory is the captain of all rhetorical figures of speech. For that reason alone, the topic of allegory deserves our attention. Part of the task involves developing salient distinctions among allegory, figuration, metaphor, and symbol, and delving into epistemological and political considerations (e.g., Plato's "Seventh Letter").

Patricia Highsmith
(above) was born in Fort Worth in 1921. Patricia Highsmith's mother tried to abort her by drinking turpentine. Later in life, she said to her daughter: "It's funny you like the smell of turpentine, Pat."  Highsmith spent much of her adult life in Switzerland and France, and she was educated at Barnard College, where she studied English, Latin, and Greek. In 1957 Highsmith won the French Grand Prix de Litterature Policiere and the British Crime Writers Association awarded her a Silver Dagger in 1964.  In 1979 she received the Grand Master award by the Swedish Academy of Detection.

TWU Home Department of English, Speech, and Foreign Languages International Society for the History of Rhetoric • Last updated 20 December 2007.